Word choice | Zach Everson

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Tips from Toastmasters that will improve your writing

While preparing for a Toastmasters speech that I gave last night (Project 4: How to Say It in the Communication and Leadership Program manual), I noticed the speech instructions had great advice not just for speaking, but also for writing:

  • “If you want listeners to understand and accept you, be sure to speak the same way they speak, using familiar words and concepts.”
  • “Select words that leave no opportunity for misunderstanding.”
  • “Select verbs carefully…use verbs that have energy. Shake, roll, and wiggle have more energy than move.
  • “Use active voice…The active voice uses fewer words, is easier to follow, and sounds more lively and interesting.”
  • “The verbs is, are, were, and was weaken your message because they don’t show action.”
  • “Strive to say a lot in as few words as possible. Many words are unnecessary or are used as ‘fillers.'”
  • “Use specialized terminology only when speaking to people familiar with those terms.”

Nope, she definitely can’t do that

On the Olympics last night, the announcer at the women’s halfpipe competition referred to one of the athletes’ chances of winning a medal by saying, “She can definitely podium.”

This gaffe is just part of the trend of sports commentators pushing for brevity at the expense of, well, making sense. Throughout this past football season, NFL announcers would say that a player was “out with a hamstring.” Since when did having a hamstring preclude one from being able to play football?

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